Open Letter to K/S Fandom by David Gerrold

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Open Letter
Title: Open Letter to K/S Fandom by David Gerrold
From: David Gerrold
Addressed To:
Date(s): 1984, 1985
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: slash and fanworks
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
David Gerrold has had a long, complicated, and often combative relationship with K/S fans.

Gerrold wrote the "Open Letter to K/S Fandom by David Gerrold" following a series of letters sent and received between himself and individual slash fans. At least one letter to Gerrold was signed by twenty-five fans, and several letters from Gerrold were reprinted in some issues of Not Tonight, Spock! and Interstat. All fan letters were in response to what he'd written in the 1984 revised edition of The World of Star Trek regarding slash and K/S fans. [1]

Some Context

First, Some Lead-Up Letters to Gerrold's Open Letter

A number of fans wrote David Gerrold, some individually and some in large groups, during the fall of 1984, protesting his comments about K/S in The World of Star Trek.

One fan submitted the form letter sent to her by David Gerrold in response to her letter to him, one which was signed by twenty-five fans: This letter was printed in Not Tonight, Spock! #5 in September 1984:

Dear [Ms. G] Thank you for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. I appreciate your candor. Let me be equally candid. The people who created STAR TREK neither share nor endorse the belief that Kirk & Spock are gay lovers. Indeed, two of the most aggressive promulgators of this belief have been barred from the lot and from the offices of those who produce ST.[2] Furthermore, those who publish ST books now have a policy of specifically avoiding even soft-core K/S material; those who write these kinds of stories will find it increasingly difficult to sell them. Of course, if it pleases an individual to believe that Kirk and Spock are lovers, it is unlikely that anything I or anyone else may say would change their mind, and it would be wrong to try. A person is entitled to his/her own beliefs. However -- the active dissemination of the K/S interpretation of ST is something that Paramount would very probably view as damaging to their property — and the studio will act to protect their property.[3].

One last note: Because of the content of several recent ltters [sic] (some of it related to K/S) I have asked to have my fan mail monitored and examined by appropriate legal agencies. K/S fans are welcome to continue writing to me, of course, but unfortunately, because of the actions of a few irresponsible individuals, all correspondence on this issue will have to be included and turned over. You are welcome to share this information with any K/S fans you know. Sincerely, David Gerrold P.S. In answer to your question about IDIC, I find it difficult to believe that IDIC includes Sado-masochism and sexual humiliation. If so, I must have missed something... [4]
In the October 1984 issue of Interstat, a fan wrote about The World of Star Trek and David Gerrold's comments in it:
Now, I do thank whatever gods that be, for making me page through the book without buying it first. I, of course, zoomed to the part about Star Trek III and read it with building excitement, I noted, with interest, a small mention about K/S fans - of which I have been for many years - and decided to page back to DG's chapter on Star Trek fans. Well, everyone's entitled to his/her own stupid opinion, a friend of mine once told me, so I tried to remain calm when reading DG's bit on K/S fans and their 'mimeographed' zines, their 'unwelcome invasion' into fandom, and how we corrupt poor young fen who wander unexpectedly into cons where K/S material is sold. The parents of such fen, DG tells us, are so horrified by the material, that they drag PYF home. Well, being a mother - and you can take that any way you like - I thought to myself, "What if all the PYFs' moms & pops aren't so horrified by K/S? What if they had less narrow minds than DG? Is it possible that there are some parents out there who accept K/S as an alternative universe in fandom - and who don't rush home with poor little YF in tow to their Bibles and Jerry Falwell show at the mere mention of it?" And, would DG's "horrified parents" be just as upset by their PYF being exposed to heterosexual adult material featuring "our boys"? Well, anyhow, thoroughly disgusted by what I was reading, 1 thought to myself, "This shmuck's not gonna get my $9.00!" Who the hell is DG anyhow? So he did something in Trek once or twice. So he keeps hanging around Star Trek conventions to get his kicks. I don't need to spend my money on him. Well, that's when I did something I was proud of. I walked away from that book store without buying the book. Even though I wanted that info on Star Trek III, I figured two more weeks wasn't that long for me to wait to find out what happens. Besides, I'd rather spend my hard-earned money on something I know will be worth reading like, Nome, for instance. [5]
In October 1984's issue of Interstat, a fan commented on The World of Star Trek and had some advice for fellow fans after she also wrote Gerrold and received a form letter:
The following is the final paragraph of a letter I received from David Gerrold in response to a letter I had written to him concerning the revised edition of The Making of Star Trek [sic]. (May? I note that while completely courteous, the letter as a whole did not really respond to the points I had raised, which was rather disappointing to me.) Mr. Gerrold wrote: "...One last note: Because of the content of several recent letters (some of it related to K/S) I have asked to have my fan mail monitored and examined by appropriate legal agencies. K/S fans are welcome to continue writing to me, of course, but unfortunately, because of the actions of a few irresponsible individuals, all correspondence on this issue will have to be included and turned over. You are welcome to share this information with any K/S fans you know." So, here it is. I think Mr. Gerrold's attitude, as expressed in his book, is regrettable (and in the long run, probably self-defeating), out I find it truly distressing that some fans, in an excess of misguided enthusiasm, to put it no more harshly than that, have behaved in a way that has contributed to Mr. Gerrold having to take a step like this. K/S, like any other aspect of Star Trek, is no more than an idea, and a fairly trivial one at that. I think some fans would be well advised to give up their fannish activities if they cannot maintain a rational perspective on these matters. Their behavior serves only to damage the rest of fandom. [6]
In January 1985's issue of Interstat, a fan wrote:
I'm glad you mentioned how bitter and poisonous those letters were. Letters of that nature only prove that there is more than one poisonous and bitter person in the world. Something I can do without. I understand that David Gerrold is being harassed because of the opinions he expressed in TWOST. Harassing a person will not change their opinion. If anything, it will only enforce it. David Gerrold believes that K/S relationships are harmful to Star Trek. He obviously loves ST, a bond I trust we all share, and we have all profited from his love. I For one loved The Trouble With Tribbles, and his novel TGWP. I hope he continues to work on behalf of ST. If you believed something was harming that which you love, you'd speak up against it. I can't hold that against DG. However, I don't think DG has the right to dictate to others how they devote their love for ST. In my opinion K/S material denies the characterizations. Kirk has always been a ladies man. Spock is only sexually aroused once every seven years. If he were all love-sick and moony he wouldn't be Spock. If we love Kirk and Spock for who they are, why change them??? Besides, I thought ST was a voyage through outer space, or an exploration of the human soul, not a trip through the bedroom. Let's get back to the sixties ethics for Star Trek's sake! [7]
In March 1985, a fan pointed out to another fan that complaints about David Gerrold didn't come from a vacuum, that there was a context to the situation:
In reply to [Barbara J] issue #87: I don't know about David Gerrold being harassed for his remarks in TWOST,? but I would like to point out that the gentleman is not all sweetness and light. Yes, I too enjoyed The Trouble With Tribbles though I thought The Galactic Whirlpool was poor - but what does that prove? I am uneasy at Mr. Gerrold's use of his privileged position as an apparent spokesman for Trek to express his personal opinions. In England last year I was in a position to experience his behaviour first hand (and second hand via the comments of several friends, but I don't want to quote heresay [sic]), as Mr. Gerrold was the guest at UFP Con, Birmingham, in May. He was either asked or volunteered to conduct the auction - some of the proceeds of which as you all probably know go to the Con charity. Now, I don't know how you envisage an auctioneer's job but I would not have thought that it was his prerogative to deride or insult both buyer and seller. Allowing for the fact that the seller puts a zine in hoping - or in the case of a rare zine, expecting - to get a good price. and also allowing for the fact that a proportion of the profits made goes to the Con charity, I would have thought that the auctioneer was honour bound to do everything in his power to encourage bidding. Not so. Picking up a copy of Thrust, Mr. Gerrold announced that 'this sort of thing' made him very angry. Good selling point. Derisive readings followed. Now perhaps K/Sers should have thicker skins and should be prepared to stand up for what they believe in, but I'm not sure what the young children in the front row made of the goings on, nor of the front cover which was brandished for all to see. At any event, Thrust went for well below its potential price. (I know because I was prepared to bid up to 20 [pounds] but gave up at 3 [pounds]. The zine finally went for 1!.) Even if you think that is no more than Thrust deserved, what of the later fates of Precessional and Sun and Shadow (neither noted for their pornographic content, I'm sure you'll agree)?[8] Using the same technique as for Thrust, Mr. Gerrold implied that these, too, were K/S zines, thereby not only displaying his ignorance but also, presumably, his contempt for fanzines in general as he quite obviously had no idea of their content or quality. Well, he failed to sell Precessional; I can only imagine that any prospective buyers were too shy or embarrassed to bid. At any rate, it is significant that the zine sold for 10 [pounds] at a later, more sympathetic auction. As Barbara says in her balanced and thoughtful letter, no one has the right to dictate to others how they devote their love for ST. She is entitled to her opinion and I am entitled to mine, within fandom, neither is dogma, and our 'ambassadors' would do well to remember that. [9]

Text of David Gerrold's Open Letter to K/S Fandom

In May 1985, this letter by David Gerrold was printed in full in Not Tonight Spock! #9. It was prefaced with an introduction by the letterzine's editor who wrote that that permission was given by Gerrold to reprint the open letter in zines, a venue that was the primary and most visible form of fannish communication of the time:

This is probably going to turn into a long letter, because I don't have the time to write a short one. But you have my permission to pass it on to any fanzine you choose for reprint.

A little bit of history here: Since the reprinting of THE WORLD OF STAR TREK, I've received an enormous amount of mail. A small amount of it has been about the 8 paragraphs on K/S fandom. [10] Unfortunately, a goodly amount of that has been abusive, obnoxious, & in 2 cases, actually threatening. Several of the letters included rude speculations about my private life. I have been called a bigot & an enemy of STAR TREK. (If I truly were a bigot would I have written MOONSTAR ODYSSES or THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF? If I were an enemy of STAR TREK, would I have continued to write STAR TREK stories when there were so many other opportunities available to me?)

However, I was concerned enough about some of the statements in some of the letters to check with a detective who specializes in crank mail. He agreed with me that looked as if I was the target of a hate-mail campaign. (I have since seen at least one fanzine -- seemingly jokingly - advocating the sending of hate mail to me, so it has been confirmed.) On his advice, I drafted a letter of reply that said that my mail was now being monitored. As soon as I began sending that letter out, the hate mail stopped. Instantly.

Since that time, several more responsible K/S fans have come forward to reassure me that the hate mail I received is not representative of all K/S fans. This may be true. The sad fact of the matter is that I have seen some very toxic behavior in the past few months. Not the least of it is the deliberate circulation of some very stupid stories about me.

The rumor you mention, for example. It's very possible that someone buying a K/S zine at the WorldCon claimed that she was buying it for me. (Certainly, it makes for a funny story.) But it's just plain silly. Why would I authorize anyone to do such a thing when I could just as easily purchase my own copies of a zine, if I were interested? And I have seen K/S fanzines before - indeed, quite a few. I met several of the people who were most active in creating K/S over twelve years ago. I saw copies of several of the very first K/S zines in 1974 or '75.

As for my publisher demanding proof of the existence of such material, that was never in question. The editor on the book was a woman with extensive experience in STAR TREK publishing. Indeed, it was her suggestion that I mention K/S fandom. I agreed to, but only if I could make it light-hearted. The very brief description in the book was based on experiences that both she & I had had with some of the more... uh, aggressive individuals. (These particular individuals have managed to alienate — and offend — 3 publishers, several members of the STAR TREK cast & production crew, & Paramount Pictures legal department. These individuals are very probably the main reason why K/S fandom has generated such a tarnished reputation in TREK fandom.)[11]

My major concern about the K/S phenomenon is simply this. The precedent has been established several times over that a studio has the right to protect its property. In the late sixties, the Disney Studios successfully sued Paul Krasner's [sic] REALIST magazine for publishing a Wally Wood poster called DISNEYLAND ORGY, which showed a panorama of Disney characters performing an incredible variety of sexual feats.[12] The owners of the STARSKY & HUTCH TV show have successfully sued fans publishing an S/H zine. [13] Lucasfilm has a policy of monitoring all fanzines and will not allow the publication of any STAR WARS fanzine that is not sent to them for approval. [14]The BBC has successfully sued to stop publication of a sexually-oriented Dr. Who fanzine. [15] More recently, Paramount Pictures has sent out cease and desist letters to computer software companies who are selling versions of the STAR TREK computer game that has been in public domain for over a dozen years. Within a month, there wasn't a single company left still selling copies of the public domain STAR TREK because they didn't want to mix it up with the studio lawyers. (And justifiably so. I've testified in a studio trial. It's a long ugly expensive process.)[16]

Now then, given that history... if Paramount's legal department ever decided that K/S was an embarrassment to their property (and there are those who are already aware of its existence), they would probably drop cease & desist letters not just on K/S fanzines — but on all STAR TREK fanzines that came to their attention. Just to be on the safe side. After all, it would be a very difficult legal position for them to say that some fanzines are okay & others aren't. They would have to act against all STAR TREK fanzines — and there's the real danger that K/S represents to all of TREK fandom. [17]

So I'm glad to hear you say that K/S fanzines are finally turning away from violence, rape & death. Sexual humiliation and sado-masochism are not in keeping with the spirit of IDIC, at least not as I understand it.

Let me conclude with this. Your letter — & letters from several other very kind individuals, as well -- have demonstrated that there are responsible K/S fans. I appreciate the sincerity & the integrity of those who have remembered that we are all human beings together, regardless of any personal differences.

As for your question, "May we call a truce?" -- I was never at war. A truce is unnecessary. Let me suggest this instead: May we continue to treat each other with courtesy & respect. [18]

Reactions and Reviews to David Gerrold's Letter (1985)

Mr. Gerrold, with seeming ingenuousness, warns us that Paramount can sue fanzines out of existence. Now, Judith Gran can correct me if I'm wrong, but according to my understanding of the law Paramount wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on at this point. At least one K/S zine was sent to Paramount Legal Dept. a number of years ago & they chose not to prosecute. This is called condoning. After they have condoned something, they cannot legally turn around years later & successfully prosecute it. They can sue anyway & lose, but the question is why they would want to. They have a great deal more to lose than a court case if they act against fanzines in the way David Gerrold says they are considering. Homophobes might identify ST with K/S & this would hurt Paramount at the box office. Then there's ST fandom, the entity that pressured the White House in to naming a shuttle the Enterprise. Does Paramount want to tangle with us? Then there's the ACLU & free speech liberals. Then there's gay activists. How many vocal minorities can Paramount afford to alienate? How much adverse publicity can they deal with? I can't believe that even Paramount would be so stupid as to slit its own collective bureaucratic throat. David Gerrold is attempting to intimidate us. We don't have to back down if we remember that we do have rights in this matter & that we do have power. [19]
I find the recent publicity K/S has encountered horrifyng. We seem to forget we live in a world a) not particularly tolerant of TREKKIEs & b) not tolerant of gays, which is what Kirk & Spock are perceived as by all who do not understand. Because we surround ourselves with others who share our beliefs & pleasures, we forget the world doesn't share our enthusiasm. I feel that the attempts to "educate" David Gerrold could be disastrous. While we may not like it, we should face the fact that many of us could be harmed if information about our fandom were to reach the general public. Besides, too much publicity may make Paramount finally take notice & tell us to stop. They can't force us to do it, of course, but they could make life difficult for those who've chosen not to use pseudonyms. Many of the points in David Gerrold's own letter in NTS #9 should be listened to. [20]
Although I have a long list of more interesting topics to write about, this issue's topic is David Gerrold on Copyright Law. Perhaps Gerrold deserves to be ignored, not rewarded with attention; but I fear that if the misstatements he made in his open letter to fans published in NTS last issue go unchallenged, someone, somewhere, may think that what Gerrold says is so just because he said it. Gerrold claims that his "real concern is that publishing K/S will lead to a crackdown against all Star Trek fanzines. He claims (1) that Paramount has the right to enjoin the publication of K/S fanzines & (2) that Paramount cannot crack down on K/S without cracking down on all Star Trek fanzines. Fortunately, Gerrold is wrong on the law & wrong on the facts... [much more info about copyright law, about Paramount's history with fanzines]... Gerrold's argument that Paramount has no discretion to take action against K/S fanzines without attacking all other zines is ludicrous. Like any other property owner, Paramount can selectively permit or forbid the use of its product. As I've mentioned, Paramount has in fact ordered a single fanzine to cease publishing, without taking action against any other zine. Indeed, in a letter to the editors of DREADN0UGHT EXPLORATIONS, Paramount's attorney wrote that Paramount "encourages" Star Trek fanzines & generally considers them a "fair use" of its property; DE simply had exceeded the limits of what Paramount considered "fair." Ultimately, Gerrold's arguments rest on a misconception of the purpose of copyright law & the interests it is designed to protect. Copyright exists to protect the legitimate commercial interests of the copyright ownet, not some generalized interest in "controlling" the property. (The latter claim specifically was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court In the Sony case.) Paramount has an interest in controlling commercial fiction based on Star Trek because the right to license mass-market books based on Star Trek is commercially valuable. However, Paramount has no corresponding commercial interest In controlling fan fiction. Because of its low volume, Paramount cannot license & receive royalties from fan fiction: The time & legal fees involved in negotiating a licensing agreement are so large that it is not cost-effective for Paramount to license a product unless it grosses at least a quarter of a million. Nor does fan fiction compete with any licensed ST product. If Paramount decides one day to license a K/S publisher, and if other K/S fans begin publishing K/S on a scale of, say, 100,000 copies per zine, then we may begin to worry about the legal status of K/S. Until then, let's not let David Gerrold or anyone else bamboozle us. [21]
Is David Gerrold licensed by Parmount [sic] as their spokesman? Why is it someone who has a public forum thinks he can tell others what to think and what to do. Believe me, I have had ENOUGH people in my life who try to tell me HOW to think, WHAT to wear, WHAT KIND of job I'll be most happy at, and what I, as a woman, am ENTITLED to READ or WRITE. You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that. It isn't feminine. Oh, SPARE ME...puuuulease. [22]

Views Unchanged: 2013

Some 28 years later, Gerrold's views on K/S have not changed even though the genre, and homosexuality in general, has gained wider acceptance in fannish circles. See "Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans", a Facebook post by David Gerrold dated August 27, 2013. [23]

Fandom reactions:


  1. You can read the eight paragraphs as quoted on Slash Controversies#KLangley_on_K/S_Controversies. Start where it says "Trimble's friend, science fiction author David Gerrold..."
  2. It's likely this is a reference to Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. While they never addressed slash in their meta writings (such as Star Trek Lives!, their fiction displayed an idiosyncratic view of Vulcans, and of the Kirk-Spock friendship, which fans identify as heavily imbued with "slashy subtext". (Excellent example here.) Many of today's fans regard The Price of the Phoenix as a slash book. They also managed to maneuver Gene Roddenberry into comparing Kirk and Spock to Alexander the Great and Hephaistion, including a mention of "the Greek ideal" which has led many fans to assume that Roddenberry intended K/S as canon.
  3. Gerrold may not have realized this was a non-issue. Judith Gran writes in her article Censored: "I can vouch for the fact that Paramount knew about K/S by at least the early 1980s, if not earlier. In April, 1983, I interviewed the lawyer who was in charge of Star Trek copyright matters for Gulf & Western Corporation (which owned Paramount before Viacom) about fan fiction and fair use. He initiated the topic of K/S, and it was clear that he was well aware of its existence and that Paramount had no intention of doing anything about it." From Censored, an essay by Judith Gran.] Originally posted to the Society for Slash Diversity and COCO CHANNEL, circa 1999.
  4. the letter's recipient points out that "Once again, Gerrold has chosen one part of a whole to focus the spotlight on. I am by no means an advocate of the more S&M-type K/S stories. Neither am I a person who judges what is within the definition of IDIC and what isn't, using my person likes & dislikes to make those judgements. By it's very nature, IDIC must include anything two consenting adults choose to partake in as part of their lives. IDIC does not mean "Infinite Diversity from Infinite Combinations providing those combinations aren't unacceptable to the masses".
  5. from Toni C-P in Interstat #84
  6. from D. Booker in Interstat #84
  7. from Barbara J in Interstat #87
  8. They are intensely narrated depictions of Kirk and Spock as devoted friends, but not sexual partners; some fans see them as perhaps "pre-slash".
  9. from Helen M.V. in Interstat #89
  10. You can read those eight paragraphs at Slash Controversies: David Gerrold here at Fanlore.
  11. Again, this is most likely a referral to Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.
  12. The Disneyland Memorial Orgy is reproduced here if you want to see it. The story of the lawsuit is at Visual News. The Realist itself, Paul Krassner's underground magazine of political and cultural commentary, is fully archived at The Realist Archive Project.
  13. This is untrue. No Starsky & Hutch zine publisher has ever been sued, much less officially contacted.
  14. This is untrue, though not for lack of trying: see Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett.
  15. It is unknown if this is true or not.
  16. There is no reference online to this incident; however, Paramount did shut down one fanzine, Dreadnought Explorations, for having an appearance they deemed too similar to professionally published material. This is the only fanzine that was ever shut down by Paramount. More recently, Paramount/Viacom had a long track record of sending cease and desist letters to fan websites that used pictures or film clips from the show, and many of these sites shut down completely. Paramount also brought action against the individual who took out the domain names and, linking them to anti-abortion websites. However, this didn't happen until 2003. Fan-made series like Star Trek: Phase II have mostly proceeded without flak from Paramount, although the proposed feature film Axanar got sued for copyright infringement after its producers raised more than $1 million in a pair of crowdfunding campaigns to produce a professionally crafted fan film, including use of the Klingon language and casting some familiar Star Trek actors in key roles. Axanar Productions promptly filed a motion to strike or dismiss, but this was denied. They settled in January 2017. The ultimate result of all this was the draconian "guidelines for avoiding objections" which effectively killed fan-made Star Trek video production.
  17. It is unlikely that a major company would ever move against fan-created works as "an embarrassment". The lawyers who own these companies look for works whose appearance could give the impression of being professionally or officially licensed material.
  18. Not Tonight, Spock! #9
  19. from Not Tonight Spock! #10, August 1985.
  20. from Not Tonight Spock! #10, August 1985.
  21. by Judith Gran in her "Right to Relief" column from Not Tonight Spock! #10, August 1985.
  22. from Not Tonight Spock! #11, November 1985.
  23. reference link; reference link (accessed August 30, 2013).
  24. reference link, (accessed August 31, 2013)
  25. reference link;reference link (accessed August 30, 2013)